November 9, 2017 11:28:26 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
The OCH Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees is going to ask a county supervisor to fill a board post that's been vacant for three years.
Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to send a letter to Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer, who has not put forth a new board member to replace Fenton Peters, who died in 2014. Peters represented District 2 on the board of trustees -- the same district Trainer represents as a county supervisor.
OCH Board Chairman Linda Breazeale said Trainer has, in the past, said he did not plan to appoint someone to the board, particularly with the ongoing debate over whether to sell the county owned hospital.
Hilton said Trainer said he didn't want to put someone "in the middle of this mess." Trainer has been a consistent proponent for the hospital's sale.
With a referendum on the hospital's sale now finished and the majority of voters siding against the sale, Breazeale suggested reaching out to Trainer to request an appointment.
"He has not appointed anyone and he said he was not going to appoint anyone," Brezeale said. "Would it be appropriate for the board to draft a letter to him saying now that 'the mess' has settled that we could request that for better communication between the two boards?"
Trainer, when contacted by The Dispatch, said he didn't want to appoint someone who might have different views than the rest of the board to a potentially hostile situation. He said he had concerns they could face ridicule or criticism for having contrary views.
"I'm not saying the board (of trustees) would attack them," he said. "I think you have other people out there who have strong emotions about the future and the wherewithal of the hospital, and I think if they came to the board they would have been tried and criticized."
Still, Trainer indicated he may nominate someone for the position, with the hospital referendum past, saying the vacancy "can and will be corrected very shortly."
Even so, Trainer wondered if an appointment would make any difference to the board, which he said often operates on unanimous votes.
He added he didn't think the lack of an appointment left his district without representation.
"It's not really without representation," Trainer said. "The board represents everyone. They have representation that's on there. If somebody would have come to that board with an adverse opinion, they would have been attacked. They would have been worn down."
Hilton said each supervisor's appointee represents a channel of communication between the hospital board and the supervisor that can't be replaced.
"Part of the purpose with appointing constituents to representation is to be that communication feedback," Hilton said. "The success of that is dependent upon the supervisor making the appointment and the appointee."
OCH Chief Legal Officer Patricia Faver said Mississippi Code section 41-13-29 1(c) says county supervisors appoint trustees for community hospitals.
The statute says "Trustees for a community hospital owned by a county shall be appointed by the board of supervisors with each supervisor having the right to nominate one trustee from his district or from the county at large."
It further says appointments beyond the fifth trustee represent the county at-large. OCH's board has six members currently -- one representing every district except District 2, and two at-large members.
Mississippi Code Section 41-13-29 2(a) says, "Any vacancy on the board of trustees shall be filled within 90 days by appointment by the applicable owner for the remainder of the unexpired term."
However, Faver said the statute doesn't speak to what happens if a supervisor fails to make an appointment.
Trainer, when asked about the law, also said there isn't any punishment for it.
"There's no repercussion whether it happens or not -- one not being made, because it's an unusual situation," he said.